NSU welcomes former U.S. congressmen

NSU welcomed two former members of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Glen Browder of Alabama and Tom Ewing of Illinois on Feb. 18. The two men, both Republicans, spoke to the NSU community about their journey to public office in the Arena at the Don Taft University Center.
Browder and Ewing attended on behalf of the national Congress to Campus Program, which aims to attract youth to leadership positions in public service and provides students the opportunity to interact with former Congress members.
Nelson Bass, political science instructor in the Division of Humanities at the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, was the event’s moderator and encouraged his students to attend, especially since he is teaching a course on Congress this semester.
Nadim Visram, sophomore political science major and Bass’s student, said he learned a lot about Congress from the guest speakers.
“I realized what they went through on a day-to-day basis or on an atypical congressional session,” Visram said. “They discussed how they voted or what they saw and what type of instances had an effect on how they live day-to-day as a congressional member.”
Kelsey Obringer, sophomore political science major, said “I thought it was a unique insight on politics that we don’t usually get the opportunity to experience.  It made me realize that anyone determined enough can be in office.”
Another former U.S. Congressman, Lawrence Smith of Florida, also attended the event and helped plan it.
“It’s very important that you all understand that there are a lot of plain, ordinary American people who are serving, did serve, have served, and will serve in the Congress of the United States,” Smith said. “You get a skewed understanding, sometimes, from reading papers, listening to the radio or watching television.  They are all mostly average folks, who are there to try and help make people’s lives better, keep the democracy alive and the country safe.”
Linea Cutter, sophomore history and political science major, said, “They came from very different backgrounds, one being a professor and the other a lawyer, which I thought helped to give two diverse perspectives of how their professional backgrounds helped them in their congressional duties.”
Browder said, “I know there are a lot of you who think you might want to get involved, but you say ‘someone like me, I could never get into the U.S. Congress or get elected to the county commission’.  Each one of us, the three of us, has his own compelling story about where he came from and how he got here.”
Browder grew up in a poor community.  His parents had a third grade and second grade education.  His father was in jail and died in a jailhouse fire when Browder was a year old. Browder was not only the first person in his family to graduate from college, but also the first person in his family — at least that he knows of — to graduate from high school.
“You don’t have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to make it in this country,” he said. “No matter what your disadvantages are, you have the opportunity and there are opportunities for you to participate in the American democracy.”

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